Learning and earning at the same time


Apprenticeships can offer people a chance to change career or secure promotion and address national skill shortages at the same time.

They are available in a wide range of sectors from health care and clinical practice to digital technology and workplace safety at the University of Leeds. 

Among those who signed up to a degree apprenticeship is mum-of-three Lydia Spence who loved working in a hospital as a care support worker but felt her true calling was to be a nurse in Accident and Emergency. 

She wasn’t keen on pursuing the traditional route of a degree course so when she spotted an opportunity on the NHS jobs website to stay working in a hospital while studying for a degree through a degree apprenticeship, she jumped at it. 

The four-year BSc Registered Nurse course is accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and is taught through academic learning at the University along with placements in health and care settings. Apprentices are paid a wage and have their university fees covered by their employer. 

The clinical experience we gained made a difference in our care. We came across as forward-thinking.”

Lydia Spence, registered nurse

“I wanted to stay at the hospital but also wanted to progress in my career,” she said. “I wasn’t yet 30 and had many years ahead of me. I realised I wanted to have more responsibility and better pay.

“I hadn’t realised there was a different path to getting a degree which involved being paid at the same time.” 

Her application succeeded and she started the course in Autumn 2019. “I was based at a medical ward at St James’ Hospital,” said Lydia. “But I also spent time on other wards such as critical care and surgery to get a varied experience.  

“The clinical experience we gained made a difference in our care. We came across as forward-thinking,” she said.  

“I went back to work in A&E at Harrogate District Hospital as I loved it there. Harrogate is my local hospital and I have a special attachment to it. 

Professor Jeff Grabill, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education, said: “Apprentices are proud to be part of the University community and appreciate the professional learning environment we have here including our first-class libraries, assistive technologies and excellent academic support. 

“An upskilled workforce helps businesses and services to develop and grow. Apprentices are known to increase productivity and service quality, so it benefits everyone. Helping our partners and local communities is a really important role for the University.” 

Apprenticeship helps Jonathan gain promotion

Jonathan Harris is pictured in front of a board displaying a graphic of St James' Hospital

Degree apprenticeships are a great route to develop your career according to Jonathan Harris (pictured above) who enjoyed the blend of quality teaching and on-the-job experience on the MSc Advanced Clinical Practitioner Apprenticeship. 

Jonathan worked in Accident and Emergency at St James’ Hospital for several years following his graduation from the University of Leeds with an MSc in Nursing (Adult). 

“I loved it,” said Jonathan. “There are not many other jobs where you get that sense of camaraderie. I had some of the best days of my career there. You never knew what was coming through the door. It was a real adrenaline rush at times.” 

Having worked as a nurse alongside Advanced Clinical Practitioners, he realised this was a good path for him to pursue and the degree apprenticeship scheme made this possible. 

It's so important getting real life experience. You can read every line in a textbook, but it doesn't make you a good nurse.”

Jonathan Harris, Advanced Clinical Practitioner

Advanced Clinical Practice enables practitioners to work beyond traditional boundaries so once he had completed his course, Jonathan was able to safely assess patients, make diagnoses, decide on next steps and discharge patients when necessary.  

“There was a broad spectrum of people doing the apprenticeship including nurses who worked in a GP practice, in the community, in a hospital and in prison.  

“It’s so important getting real life experience. You can read every line in a textbook, but it doesn’t make you a good nurse. For instance, communication skills are crucial to talk to a patient and get to the bottom of things.” 

He finds this particularly useful where he currently works in Elderly medicine at St James’ Hospital where older patients are either sent by their GP or present at A&E with a range of health issues. 

Jonathan was delighted he got a distinction in his apprenticeship degree. “I put my heart and soul into the training and got a lot out of it. I can’t recommend it enough.” 

Brothers gain vitally needed fire safety skills 

Adam Shafiq is pictured checking electrical work.

As well as being a training provider, the University also employs apprentices. Brothers Adam and Abdullah Shafiq are currently gaining on-the-job training in life safety compliance at the University of Leeds.  

Following COVID the fire safety industry suffered from a severe skills shortage, so the University introduced a fast-track apprentice scheme. 

The brothers started in February 2023 after a successful recruitment process and alongside gaining work experience, they are taking modules delivered by professional training provider Skills for Security. 

Adam, 20, (pictured above) and Abdullah, 18, from Bradford, were selected from nearly 40 people responding to the advert. 

It is such a critical role and I feel it creates great job prospects for me. I'm also proud to be part of such a prestigious institution.”

Adam Shafiq, apprentice in life safety compliance

Adam said: “I’ve been interested in the electrical industry since I was young and was really interested when I saw a job in the fire and security sector on the University of Leeds job site. It is such a critical role and I feel it creates great job prospects for me. I’m also proud to be part of such a prestigious institution.” 

Manager Tawfiq Wahab said: “These new recruits have been taking part in our life safety compliance activities, giving us the opportunity to develop specialist skills in-house and contributing to the industry. It feels like it is a great step for them in achieving their goals.” 


During 2021/22, 83 apprentices completed their apprenticeship with the University of Leeds as training provider and during 2022/23 this rose to 152 apprentices. After completing their apprenticeship, 88.2% were still employed or had gained a more senior role within the sector. 

Benefit from a high level leadership appenticeship

Businesses have the opportunity to find out how they can benefit from a high level leadership apprenticeship by attending a webinar on 22 February hosted by the Leeds University Business School, 12.30pm to 1pm. Apply for tickets for Discovering the Leeds Executive Leadership Apprentice on EventBrite.

More Information

National Apprenticeship Week runs from 5 – 11 February.

For more information contact Jane Lewis in the University of Leeds press office.